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This is the new E3? Sure, I'll take it...with a side of Pinkberry

It's just a few hours until the press events start. Right now, we reporters are just soaking up the shock factor.

I'm looking for the PlayStation folks, have you seen them? Caroline McCarthy/CNET

I rolled into the seaside city of Santa Monica, Calif., home of the E3 Media and Business Summit, this morning after a flight out of New York City that wasn't technically a red-eye, but might as well have been because it was pretty darn early (would you call that a pink-eye?). Let's just say it's a far cry from the conference's former home at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The above photograph shows something that I snapped with my camera while--no kidding--on the way to pick up my press wristband for Sony Computer Entertainment America's media event.

Maybe it'll be a bit less stately once the E3 hullabaloo picks up, but right now, it looks more like a setting for a charity gala on The O.C. than the debutante ball for Halo 3 and a bunch of World of Warcraft clones. Sony's headquarters, at the Le Merigot hotel, is just one of several beachfront locales used for meetings and demonstrations at this year's E3. For those of us used to exhibition halls, it's a bit of a shock.

I also poked my head into a few of the Le Merigot suites, which were being outfitted with game demo stations from companies like Electronic Arts, Atari and Namco Bandai. Yes, E3 has been drastically slimmed down this year to cut out some of the old glitz and mayhem, but from what it looked like, the "businesslike" hotel suites were still getting pretty heavily decked out. Well, hey, it is the gaming industry!

On that note, I've been playing a fun new game: when I see someone walking down Ocean Avenue, I try to figure out "E3 or not E3?" I haven't actually asked anybody yet, but it's pretty easy to tell who's native to this sun-soaked, skateboard-friendly SoCal town that inspired a thousand summery emo ballads, and who's here for the video game show. Full disclosure: I fit squarely into the latter demographic. Let's just say we tech reporters are a little bit lacking in the tan department.

Also spotted around Santa Monica: plenty of frozen yogurt chains are springing up, attempting to capitalize on the endemic L.A. craze of Pinkberry. You'll know them when you see them--small, bright storefronts with signs that bear a suspicious resemblance to Web 2.0 logos. The Pinkberry chain recently spread to Manhattan, and an outpost has opened just a short walk from CNET's New York bureau, which is why my keyboard is now sticky and smells like kiwi.

Ironically, Santa Monica doesn't actually have any Pinkberrys proper. You'll have to go one town over to Venice for that. Trust me, I checked online.